Reader: Have you been to IndeBlue yet?
C.L.: Yes, but you'll have to wait a bit to hear more from me on this newcomer from Collingswood to Philly's 13th Street scene. Let's just say it's interesting, a real step up toward Indian fusion cuisine. And worth a try. More details from me in a few weeks...
Reader: I recently went to Zahav's kitchen counter and was blown away by the food and service. Even though Solomonov was out of town, his kitchen held it down with a great meal. With that and the highly personalized service, it's a bargain.
C.L.: Glad to hear that. Zahav is a finely tuned four-bell machine that keeps getting better. I don't go to special events. But the just announced, Aug. 13 collaboration dinner with Momofuku Saam Bar from NYC is worth looking into. For night owls only - the tasting meal starts at 11:45 p.m.
Reader: Are you upset that Chifa is closing or are you more excited by Jose Garces idea of a Cuban diner? Chifa was my least favorite of his sit-down places that I've tried.
C.L.: Totally excited. The food at Chifa was always good, and reliably interesting (the complimentary cheese ball bread remains something I covet). But as a concept, it seemed too limited to draw a sustainable crowd. That neighborhood could really use an all-day concept to compliment Jones and I love the Cuban diners of New York (lived near La Rosita, and also Floridita) - and would relish the idea of ropa vieja, arroz con pollo, or moros y cristianos done right for the Center City crowd. Garces, whose wife is Cuban, knows a few things about Latin cuisine. This will be a chance to show he understands the traditional flavors as well as he interprets the nuevo ones.
Reader: I'm curious to know what your thoughts are on Vetri turning into a pop-up Le Bec Fin under the direction of Georges Perrier? Do you think M Perrier should continue bouncing around as a 'guest' chef? Or fully embrace retirement?
C.L.: I really wish I could have gone to this meal. It was more than a typical pop-up, with some deeper significance, given that Perrier got his start at that address. Georges has settled into a semiretirement mode, having sold off all his properties. But I'm not one of those who are tired of the man and want him to go away. Are you crazy, people? This is one of the greatest chefs Philadelphia has ever seen, and if he's able to impart some old-school lessons to some of our younger chefs through guest appearances, I say more power to him. Even Marc Vetri (who understands the value of these things) tweeted (something to this effect): "I learned so much in three days." Even better, perhaps retirement will mellow M. Perrier.